Noordam Cruise Review by SGARL
- Sail Date: July 2016
- Destination: Alaska
The departure to the train station for the trip to Denali is very early in the morning. There is a Starbucks in the restaurant, but with limited staff, it is very slow. There is coffee available on the train, as well as other soft and hard beverages and food items/service.
If you have opted for a double night in Denali, the schedule calls for an 7-8 hour train ride to Denali, a 7 hour bus tour of the park the next day, and then a 10 hour bus ride (with a lunch stop) down to Seward to join the ship the day after that. It can be three long days of riding.
If you have been to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Anchorage before starting the trip to Denali, you may find the day-long tour of the park repetitive and without any up-close animal sighting. The bus around the park stops frequently when someone thinks they see sheep, bears, or other animals, but the animals are a long way away. You do learn about the ecology of the park on the tour. You will be advised to get a box lunch for the bus tour around the park. It can be purchased in the lobby of the McKinley Chalet where you will stay, but you need to order it the night before and the line to pick it up in the morning can be long. The Park Service bus you take on the park tour provides snacks and water.
If you stick to the schedule that Holland America has for those days, the only time for excursions is at night and you have no control over when your bus leaves the next day -- and they can leave as early as 6 am up to 9 am. Our night of river rafting left us with a very short night before the bus tour of the park.
The Chalet at Denali is actually a collection of buildings. Our room was in a building a good walk away from the main lodge where you were picked up for various trips and the walk includes a substantial hill. There were three shuttle buses that provided service around the property, but they did not work well when you are on a schedule. The two small ones filled up quickly and the bigger bus was a slow trip to the lodge. The rooms were alright, but rather dark.
The bus to Seward was comfortable and our driver played a DVD on the Iditarod to help the time go a little faster. Lunch was pleasant and well organized.
We had traveled on a sister ship of the Noordam two years ago so found the ship and our verandah room very familiar and comfortable.
We really enjoyed Glacier Bay and Haines. Glacier Bay gave us great views of the glaciers and Haines seemed such a genuine Alaska town. The Mayor of Haines even greeted us as we got off the ship!! The town is small and is not inundated with shops for tourists as you will find in Ketchikan, but that made it all the more pleasant to see. There is a shuttle around the small town. Our bus driver talked with great pride about the extent of medical care available in the town, despite its size (2,500), and their award-winning library. When we got back to the ship (around 5:30), there was a group of native dancers performing at the dock. They were very friendly and answered all our questions. It was just nice to see a real Alaska Town!
We have made several trips to Alaska, but always enjoy the beauty of the landscape and the chance to see so many things we never see in urban America.
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